(Hi readers – normally the columnists’ weekly posts will be published on Wednesdays. But since I’ve got a week of giveaways starting this Monday, I thought I’d publish Maya’s column a few days early! Enjoy.)
The following is written by green and frugal columnist Maya Bisineer.
My toddlers never took to “no” very well. They were, however, amazingly cooperative when I gave them a convincing and logical explanation for that “no.”
I learned early on that tying several pieces of information together in a very logical manner really got the attention, as well as the affirmative nod, from my little ones. This was when storytelling became a powerful tool – and my best friend – for raising my toddlers, and teaching them about a number of things – including money.
“Frugal” is a wonderfully useful mindset – it saves us money, and it often provides better choices for the environment. So frugality really is not about just spending less, but about making smarter spending decisions. Learning to live frugally is an incredibly useful life skill for our children as well.
If your little one loves stories and understands the concept of “cause and effect,” your toddler is ready for lessons in frugality. Here are some very basic ways to a conversational tool called storytelling for raising a frugal and money-conscious toddler.
(Having your toddler and his or her friends be the focus of these conversations piques their interest more than anything. And, with everything else, repetition is key. Tell a story over and over again. Kids love that.)
1. Share a story about the life-cycle of money.
Start with story as simple as this: “Daddy goes to office to do his ABC’s. He works really hard and then brings money home. Mommy, Daddy and Sammy will take the money and go buy our food from the store. And yes, we can also use the money to go for rides on the carousel sometimes.” Since I work at home, this is the story I shared with my little one as soon as Dad left for work everyday. It took just a week for little Sammy to make the association – no office means no money, and no money means no food or fun.
2. Connect money to everyday life.
Now that your little one has understood that work results in money, and money is needed for food and fun, try to connect money to other things at home as you go about your day.
Have a conversation – in a storytelling way – about why it is important to switch off lights in the home and to save water. Tie it to things that are most important to Sammy – such as carousel rides, or maybe a picnic. “We should switch off the lights here because we do not need it anymore and it costs money. Let’s turn it off, okay? We can save our money and have a lot more fun when we go out.”
Refrain from bringing up too many materialistic things, such as toys, into the stories. That might backfire.
3. Explain your reasons for “special” experiences.
Have a conversation with your little one on the way to special places, such as the library or the community center. “We have to give the books back to the library so the other kids can read them. We do not have all the money or all the space to buy and store ALL these books, do we? And sharing stories is so much more fun”.
4. Make it exciting to choose homemade.
When you choose to make gifts at home rather than just going out and buying them, tell little Sammy why it is so special. “Aunt Sarah will feel so special when she gets this gift because we made it especially for her. You worked so hard and put so much love into it, didn’t you? How exciting!”
5. Talk often about things other than money.
A number of frugal choices have an obvious benefit – such as spending time together, making something handmade, and going back to the basics to have fun. Remind your child about how much fun you had at the park the other day. Teach your child about wonderful ways to have fun without spending money. Teach them about the joys of music and dance. And incorporate these experiences in your stories. And then, make a big deal out of those experiences.
These five conversation ideas will teach Sammy about where money comes from, and what money is needed for. While saving money is good, it is not essential for having fun.
As early as possible, teach your little one that your family doesn’t need a lot of money to be happy. You do not have to talk about money all the time to teach a toddler about the frugal life. Focus on sharing how frugal choices result in a richer life.
How do you teach your little one about money and sensible spending?
Maya Bisineer is a mom with a passion and an entrepreneur with a purpose. She is the founder of Memetales – a collaborative space for writers and illustrators to create and market children’s picture books. She blogs about her entrepreneurial journey at Geek Dance, and has an inspiration blog at Think Maya.